The Broadband Commission’s annual Spring Meeting was hosted at the kind invitation of Facebook at their headquarters in Menlo Park, California. Around 60 participants, including 30 Commissioners and representatives, attended the two day meeting on April 28-29. Under the theme ‘Shaping the Future of Broadband for Sustainable Development,’ Commissioners met in what ITU Secretary General, Mr. Houlin Zhao, coined as a ‘defining moment,’ where over half of the world’s population is online but many more are still waiting to reap the benefits of the digital economy.
Commissioners from around the world gathered during the two-day meeting to provide multi-disciplinary perspectives on a series of issues related to the future of broadband. As a multi-stakeholder platform founded on a shared vision to contribute to broadband policy and advocate for the Sustainable Development goals, participants highlighted the Commission’s potential in addressing the challenges faced in a digitalised world. Social inclusion was put at the forefront of discussions – how to ensure no one is left behind from having the opportunity to experience the empowering benefits of broadband.
It will not be business as usual to connect the unconnected, sustainable and people-centred strategies will have to be adhered to and innovative partnerships will have to be fostered. According to Dr Carlos Jarque, Executive Director of International Relations, Corporate and Government Affairs at America Movil, the Broadband Commission has the means to design the best ecosystem, realise the necessary partnerships, and materialise investments and digital skills to move closer in connecting the other half of the world’s population still not online.
The Commission also reviewed the progress and work underway in the three active Working Groups - Child Safety On-Line: Minimizing the Risk of Violence, Abuse, and Exploitation On-Line, chaired by Dr. Joanna Rubinstein, CEO of the World Childhood Foundation, and Mr. Scott Gegenheimer, CEO of Zain; Broadband for All: A ‘Digital Infrastructure Moonshot’ for Africa, chaired by Ms. Kristalina Georgieva, CEO of the World Bank; and Freedom of Expression and Tackling Disinformation, chaired by UNESCO and Dr. Hessa Al Jaber, Chairperson for Eshailsat. Several new themes and proposals were discussed for future Working Groups.
The Transform Africa Summit, Africa’s Smart flagship event, took place from 14-16 May in Kigali, Rwanda. Under the theme Boosting Africa’s Digital Economy, this annual forum brought together global leaders from government, business, and international organizations to find ways to continue shaping, accelerating, and sustaining Africa’s digital revolution. Several Commissioners of the Broadband Commission, including H.E. Paul Kagame, President of Rwanda, H.E. Dr. Amani Abou-Zeid, Commissioner for Infrastructure and Energy at the African Union Commission, H.E. Aurélie Adam-Soule Zoumarou, Minister of Digital Economy and Communication Benin, delivered key-note speeches during the event.
The AI for Good Global Summit, organized by the ITU in partnership with UN Sister Agencies, ZPRIZE Foundation and ACM, was held on May 28-31 in Geneva, Switzerland. This summit is the leading United Nations platform for global and inclusive dialogue on artificial intelligence. Leading minds in AI, business, government, civil society, and international cooperation gathered in breakthrough sessions, workshops, demonstrations, and exhibitions to ensure trusted, safe, and inclusive development of AI technologies and equitable access to their benefits.
Ms Stella Ndabeni-Abrahams is the Minister of Communications, responsible for executive oversight over the Departments of Telecommunications and Postal Services (DTPS) and Communications (DoC).
The Minister is well versed on issues pertaining to ICT convergence and digital transformation, understanding that for South Africa to appropriately position itself for the Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR), skills development and capacity building for the youth, entrepreneurs, government employees and citizens must be at the helm of all interventions.
To this end, the Minister has been at the forefront of “Building a Capable 4IR Army.” As the then Deputy Minister of Telecommunications and Postal Services, she led the launch of the 4IR Skills Forum, an initiative that seeks to harmonise efforts of all stakeholders in the sector towards building a capable 4IR army. This is done through in-school and post-school training, SMME development, infrastructure deployment and innovation initiatives.
Being online has a lot of empowering benefits, including the opportunity to receive an education. Intelsat’s partnership with Coursera, an online learning-tool which allows individuals to follow online courses from world-renown universities, has offered thousands of refugees in Ghana’s Ampain Refugee Camp with the ability to access these courses free of charge. Refugees can follow these courses and receive a recognised certificate from the teaching institutions, providing them with new skills and competencies along with increased integration within communities beyond the camp. Intelsat’s has installed a low maintenance, solar-powered, VSAT-connected Wi-Fi kiosk which provides refugees with access to Internet and the Coursera courses. According to Natacha, a 28 year old refugee in Ampain Refugee Camp, “Refugees in this camp were not expecting such an opportunity. This facility has been very beneficial to us.” For more information check out Intelsat’s website!
On June 10, the High Level Panel on Digital Cooperation presented its report The Age of Digital Interdependence and recommendations to UN Secretary-General Mr António Guterres. The 20-person Panel, co-chaired by Ms Melinda Gates and Mr Jack Ma, published the report as a call for greater cooperation to ensure the benefits of digital technology that can be reached by all of humanity.
The report presents 5 recommendations:
- Build an inclusive digital economy and society
- Develop human and institutional capacity
- Protect human rights and human agency
- Promote digital trust, security and stability
- Foster global digital cooperation.
The Broadband Commission submitted its coordinated input during the open consultation. The link to the Commission’s contribution, which is available online and publicly, is following: https://digitalcooperation.org/responses/
There is a significant number of synergies between the outcomes of HLP on Digital cooperation and the Broadband Commission work and the report is referring to the work of the Commission as an active institution committed to universal connectivity. Its efforts to strengthen cooperation mechanisms through cross-cutting initiatives led the panel to mention the Broadband Commission as a value-convener within the global digital transformation.
The Global Symposium for Regulators (GSR) will be held in Port Vila, Vanuatu on 9-12 July. Under the theme Inclusive Connectivity: The Future of Regulation, regulators and ICT stakeholders from all around the world will gather to discuss the most pressing regulatory matters, including means to bring affordable, safe, secure, and trusted connectivity and online access to people everywhere. The Broadband Commission’s special session, The Leadership Debate: Getting the Next 3.7 Billion Online, will be held on 10 July to examine the role of partnership in getting everyone online, including the need for people-centered approaches and innovative investment models for affordable and secured connectivity.